Announcing the 2014 Passive House Award – submission deadline 30th September 2013
Darmstadt. Those at the forefront of energy efficient construction globally can now submit innovative projects for the 2014 Passive House Award. Competition entries may include single buildings as well as entire districts or regions. An independent jury will evaluate the architectural design and urban planning aspects of the submitted projects with special attention given to the use of renewables in sustainable energy supply concepts. Winning projects will be presented with the award at the 2014 International Passive House Conference next April in Aachen, Germany.
The Passive House Award is intended to demonstrate the high architectural quality and the diverse nature of the work being done in the field of energy-efficient construction at the international level. The award will also recognise the increasingly popular combination of energy-efficiency with renewable energy sources. The award has been announced by the Passive House Institute within the framework of the EU project PassREg (Passive House Regions with Renewable Energies) under the patronage of the German Federal Ministry of Transport, Construction and Urban Development. Entries may be submitted online through 30 September 2013 at www.passivehouse-award.org.
For single buildings, Passive House certification and the use of renewables is a prerequisite; compliance with EnerPHit criteria is essential in the case of retrofits. City districts, towns, entire streets or regions can even participate if they are still in the development phase. Achievement of the Passive House or EnerPHit Standard should also be aimed for and at least one building in the scheme must be certified. Applications may be submitted by representatives of both the public and private sector including municipalities, associations or housing development companies.
The jury will consider the exemplary role of the projects in addition to evaluating them on architectural design and urban planning aspects. Creative solutions that address extreme climates or other challenging conditions resulting from the location, the legal framework, financing or construction in general will also be examined. The cost- effectiveness of the buildings or building schemes and the approaches employed will pave the way for implementation of such front running projects on a large scale.
“With Passive House, designers and architects have complete creative freedom – the requirements for functionality, structure, economics and ecology can all be combined in a visually appealing way,” stresses Dr. Wolfgang Feist, Director of the Passive House Institute. With the 2010 Passive House Award, the Passive House Institute already demonstrated that energy efficiency and stunning architecture can go hand in hand. The winners of the next Passive House Award will be presented at the 18th International Passive House Conference, to be held on 25 and 26 April 2014 in Aachen, Germany.
Further information regarding the terms and conditions of participation can be found at
Passive House: Toward Net Zero Energy
To slash energy use and carbon emissions while developing our built environment, Passive House is the proven essential first step – increasing comfort and health while reducing heating and cooling demand by up to 90%. The NY13 Passive House Symposium (NY13) will explore the effectiveness of Passive House as a cornerstone of our low-energy, low-emissions future – highlighting important questions regarding policy, finance and performance criteria.
How is public policy enabling Passive House in other cities and nations? How might such policies address New York’s future? What are the economic realities surrounding Passive House buildings and the finance of real estate development? What are project specific examples of how Passive House performance can be met? Are these buildings working? How are they measured?
Our sustainable, resilient future is a complex path. Join us June 8th in exploring how Passive House can start us on the right foot.
Join us on Saturday, June 8th.
BY VERONIQUE LEBLANC
In 2006, when we bought our house in Mamaroneck, New York, it was all about location: views on Mamaroneck Harbor, a south-facing orientation, proximity to the train station and the village’s main shopping street, and the ability to have a decent sailboat moored in deep water across the street and winterized at the shipyard next door.
The house was a rundown wreck from the 1960s. It was extended in the 70s and poorly maintained. It seems that the former owners used it for a summer cottage. In addition, we had a terrible inspector who failed to see many flaws: a leaking flat roof, blocked and leaking gutters, no gutter leaders to carry storm water away from the foundation, mold, high humidity in the basement, bad ventilation, a leaking dishwasher, termites that had destroyed a major supporting beam in the crawl space, and squirrels in the master bedroom attic. For starters.
Lesson No. 1: Make sure your inspector gets dirty by crawling through the attic and crawl spaces before you sign a contract
For three months, I became a firefighter, trying to patch up every problem emerging each day. We knew we wanted to renovate and expand the house, but first we wanted first to live in it for a while in order to understand how it could be better used in summer and winter.
We lived in the house for five years before we found the right team to renovate it. The annual energy cost of the gas-fired furnace and the electric load for 2 to 3 people (our daughter was in college in Maine, visiting occasionally) in the 3,000-square-foot house (including a finished basement) was about $10,000 a year. Meanwhile, the house was not comfortable at all: the great room — the room with the best living space and views — was terribly cold in winter and like a furnace in summer.
There was no insulation in the former sitting room. There was no insulation whatsoever anywhere: none in the roof — the exposed beams in the sitting room that looked like a design feature were the actual roof rafters — none in the attic or crawl spaces. The windows were Andersen double-pane units from the 1970s.
The exterior doors were naturally ventilated by the dominating west wind, to the point that the blinds were flying even when all the windows and doors were closed.
Our initial take on renovation was not that green, to be honest: we wanted to expand, and to take advantage of solar gains from the south, with big overhangs à la Frank Lloyd Wright, and some solar panels to produce electricity to run our appliances and lighting. We struggled a bit with the roof orientation. There was some tension between the architect and the solar energy engineer about the design and its sustainability.
Lesson No. 2: Hire experts. Don’t expect people to get the training you’d like them to have.
Lesson No. 3: Hire a team, not individuals. You don’t want to become the ham in their sandwich.
A year later, I switched to another architect who was highly recommended by a good friend. That architect did create a design that ended up costing twice the budget. The design didn’t respect any of the cost limitations and requirements, and didn’t include any decent green features to reduce energy consumption, while tripling the footprint (and property taxes). Meanwhile, I keep reading and learning about green building.
Lesson No. 4: Include your budget in any contract with an architect.
Lesson No. 5: Amend AIA contracts to rebalance them, as they are designed by architects for architects.
The time you spend on negotiating a contract is more valuable than the contract itself as you’ll both get to assess crisis situations and their resolution before they happen. It works like a “prenup” in a way: What if…?
Designer No. 3 was recommended by the same German energy engineer I had from the start. He had agreed and signed a letter of intent with defined fees, construction costs, and deliverables. But the whole team could never meet the construction budget. So green… However, thanks to that German engineer, the concept of a Passivhaus started revolving in my head as the way to go, rather than Energy Star or LEED.
Lesson No. 6: Beware of the “yes we can” people. A team is not enough! You need an “A” team — one that has already done it before and wants to do it again.
Architect No. 4 came highly recommended by an interior designer friend of mine. That architect had just completed a brand-new Energy Star house measuring 4,500 square feet across the Hudson River. He was interested in upgrading from Energy Star to Passivhaus for the next project. Logical, you would think — no? No!
Lesson No. 7: Do not forget lesson No. 6.
Lesson No. 8: Never deal with friends’ friends: you may lose your friends on the way.
Our relationship with Architect No. 4 ended up nine months later in a total fiasco. The architect cashes the latest check and disappears, and does not answer any e-mails or phone calls.
Lesson No. 9: Be fair but not stupidly nice.
It’s Spring 2011. Four years have gone by and a lot of time and money has been wasted. And I have given up. I am no quitter but after all this mess, it is understandable to think there is a bad karma on this project, and that it is not meant to happen. So I plan for my traditional spring holiday in my favorite part of the world: Mallorca, Spain.
Only, before I leave, I attend a Meet Up of the New York Passive House (NYPH) group in Soho, New York. In my mind, this is my goodbye (but not farewell) meeting with the group. I need a break.
All these great men and women from NYPH are real pioneers: they are creating the new frontier of energy-efficient building in a totally disbelieving society. How many times have I heard people around me, including close friends, consider it is too early, too expensive (since energy is cheap), and too risky to cut energy consumption at the expense of economic growth? Blah blah blah.
With that group at NYPH, I found my parish: they believe and they make their belief happen! Everyone with their own twist: multifamily social housing, no-waste homes, town buildings, residential houses, you name it.
They look at their own creations and make constructive criticisms, with pros and cons, in front of their colleagues.
When I registered in November 2010, we were 30 members. Now we are 150.
During that Meet up, Andreas Benzing, the architect who finally make the project a reality, came to say hi, and asked how my project is going. I just state that I have given up and am going away for a break. He suggested I let him have a look at it when I come back. During my retreat in Spain, I sent him the basic info, so that he could see if there is a solution to my equation or not.
And here we are. A year later, we broke ground to build the first Mamaroneck Passive House.
In the meantime, I have moved to Hong Kong for my husband’s business. A problem? No, not with a great A team! Andreas brought Dom and Dave, the builders, on board. They are from Huntington, Long Island, just across the Sound from us in Oyster Bay. They want to specialize in Passivhaus projects. Plus, we have Skype to the rescue!
Who knew that one day I would be more excited about getting a building permit and triple-pane windows than Prada shoes?
Lesson 10: Things happen when you don’t expect them to happen!
Conclusion to my Building 101 crash course: You only learn well from your mistakes because you remember the pain!
The 7 Habits of Local, Highly Successful Passive House Organizations – thoughts on resource efficient advocacy
By Bronwyn Barry
Over the past five years I’ve been fortunate to interact with a vast network of Passive House advocates from Austria, Germany, Italy, Spain, Hungary, England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Denmark, Latvia, Slovakia, Estonia, Mexico, Canada and New Zealand. At home in California, I’ve worked to promote the PH concept both locally at Passive House California, and nationally at the American Passive House Network in coordination with NY Passive House, Passive House Northwest and Passive House New Mexico. In all of these interactions, locally, nationally and internationally, I’ve repeatedly heard the same two ‘cris de coeur’: 1. “We need more help,” and, 2. “Our buildings and codes are different/special/more complicated/(add problem) here.”
In an effort to partially address these cries, I offer the following anecdotal observations on how to be more effective with very few resources. These ideas evolved from many years working to build organizations that promote building efficiency. I’ve implemented many of them personally and taken others from observing successes in other groups and regions. I offer them here as a tool to sharpen your own particular strengths and abilities and welcome your feedback and responses.
Target achievable goals that require fewer resources and can be accomplished by small groups. States are large entities. Cities and regions are smaller and much more easily influenced. It is easier to get to know the key people who can affect policy changes at a local level. Successful examples of this approach are PlaNYC 2030, the Brussels Region and multiple cities and regions within Austria and Germany (Voralberg, Hesse, Frankfurt etc.)
Stimulate Demand: host tours, open houses and publicize the heck out of local projects. Competitions such as the APHN PHPP Dashboard competition and scholarships are also easy ways to stimulate interest. Think of these efforts as ‘investments’ in the future of your local organization. PHCA gave two scholarships to local builders to attend the first Tradesperson Training course. They are now teaching PH at local schools and community colleges.
Build Regional Competence, resources, expertise and connections: PH requires a team effort. Train and build your local ‘team’ and actively recruit missing collaborators (such as mechanical engineers.) Humans gravitate together to share success and failure. Build diverse organizations that provide opportunities for this to happen. This is why small US regional groups are thriving and started before any national US PH organizations. Local groups are more nimble and able to generate local climate and building typology adaptions for PH. They can also achieve item #1 more effectively.
Train Multi-family and Institutional architects first. Don’t start with single-family homebuilders and architects. Single-family is the hardest, most costly, least efficient building typology for PH and builds a case against Passivhaus because it is challenging. Outreach directly to multi-family, institutional and larger-scale developers, builders and designers. This is what the UK Passivhaus Trust did. They have leap-frogged the US in terms of volume of PH being planned and built.
Collaborate with local manufacturers. PH requires a full ‘eco-system’ for it to be successful and that includes product suppliers and manufacturers. Don’t treat them like ‘lepers’ – you need each other. Provide special workshops for specific products that you would like locally manufactured. (APHN Window Certification workshop is an example. PHI is now doing this workshop in other regions.)
Don’t waste time trying to establish an ‘Institute.’ We already have one – it’s called the PHI. Get over the idea of trying to build your own – it’s not efficient and is a waste of energy and resources trying to replicate, particularly when relatively inexperienced with Passive House. Austria and the UK built strong advocacy organizations that built certification and training capacity quickly, rather than diverting resources into an ‘Institute.’
Don’t waste time converting ‘nay-sayers.’ There are plenty of open-minded people who see the benefits of PH immediately. Spend time with them. They will in turn reach out to many more people than you can yourself. Do listen to those with valid skepticism and concern. Often their fears are based on incorrect information and by listening to them you can correct these misconceptions.
Systems Thinking – Donella Meadows: “Thinking in Systems: A Primer.” And “Places to Intervene in a System.” http://center.sustainability.duke.edu/sites/default/files/documents/system_intervention.pdf
Bright-Spot Theory – Chip and Dan Heath: “Switch: How to change things when change is hard.” Review and synopsis: http://www.fastcompany.com/1514493/switch-dont-solve-problems-copy-success
On Saturday April 20 NYPH Member Cramer Silkworth of Baukraft Engineering will present a tool for PHPP modeling of multiple zones and/or design options at the Passive House Conference in Frankfurt. Developed in collaboration with David White of Right Environments, the free Excel-based tool coordinates the inputs for any number of design variations and collects key results in one location for easy review. Highly flexible in design, any number of PHPP inputs and outputs can be coordinated from one Excel file. The tool is available as a free download from www.baukraft.com/downloads
Belgium, the country that brought us Tintin, the reporter-turned detective, is in the midst of another great adventure. Belgium has finally found the culprit in its high energy costs and CO2 emissions which translates directly into loss of money and global warming. The culprit was always hiding right under their nose and worse yet in their homes and places of work: poorly insulated buildings. This was the perfect villain for Tintin to confront with energy savings strategies.
In 2001, Belgium was ranked as the European Country with the worst standards of wall insulation. However, thanks to a visionary elected official, Evelyne Huytebroeck, a program that educates architects, homeowners and interested parties about the design of energy sensitive construction was created encouraging low energy new buildings and retrofits. These projects are called exemplary buildings and in general denote buildings and project renovations of a high environmental performance standard. The results have been impressive, between 2004 and 2011, energy use has been reduced by 18%, and Co2 emissions by 11%.
Between the years 2007 and 2012, 5.1 million square feet of sustainable construction has been built and of that an impressive 3.2 million square feet of construction met the Passive House Energy standard. The program has been so successful that Brussels has passed a law that mandates all new or significant renovations for housing, schools and offices will need to reach Passive House Energy standard starting on Jan 1, 2015.
Like many of the Tintin adventures the culprit is no longer at large (at least in Brussels) and now the city has become the poster child of European sustainability. In 2012, the European Union awarded Brussels the Sustainable Energy Europe Award in the Living category. This is just the beginning of creating and promoting more energy-efficient buildings and sharing the message that passive house techniques are one of the most effective strategies in this endeavor.
Recently, Joke Dockx, the Director for Promotion of sustainable buildings in Brussels made several presentations in New York City to the USGBC and passive house enthusiasts showcasing the amazing transformation that Brussels has gone through over the past few years. I think that it is time that New Yorkers take note of what has undergone in Brussels and confront our own energy shortcomings. It has been proven that our buildings alone use over 70% of our energy as they are poorly insulated and require massive amounts of energy to climatize. Alongside researching ways to produce energy through wind and water we need to promote tighter building envelopes and smoke out the culprit within our homes, schools, places of entertainment, businesses.
I think it’s time for Tintin to do some sleuthing in NYC.
Stas Zakrzewski is principal architect at zh-architects, is passionate about beautifully composed high
performance buildings and believes in the increasing importance of designing energy sensitive and sustainable projects.
, March 11, 2013
Ms. Joke Dockx, Director for Energy at the Brussels Institute for Management of the Environment (“Brussels Environment”) will explain how Brussels has created a government-private Exemplary Buildings partnership promoting Passive House construction and retrofits. Since 2007, the Exemplary Buildings partnership has assisted 52 Exemplary Building projects with another 44 under construction (collectively, over 15 million square feet of Passive House buildings). A growing share of the Exemplary Buildings meet the Passive House Standard, and it will mandate Passive House starting 2015.
Brussels Environment promotes, subsidizes, and monitors sustainable development in the Brussels Capital Region of Belgium.
Free for NYPH Professional members
For NYPH supporters $10
General public meetup members $20
1 AIA CEU LU available
Location: Trespa Showroom, 62 Greene St, New York NY
Our friends at Passive House Northwest and Passive House California are also hosting Ms. Docx. She will be presenting at the PHnw 2013 Annual Conference on March 15 and at the Building Carbon Zero California symposium on March 20.
Greg Duncan is a Certified Passive House Designer and principal of Gregory Duncan Architect
UPDATE: Early registration discounts extended to March 1
Early registration discounts for the International Passive House Conference in Frankfurt end
February 15 March 1, 2013. New York Passive House members at the professional level get additional discounts through our affiliation with the International Passive House Association (iPHA).
The first conference I attended was in Innsbruck, Austria, two years ago. At the time Passive House was just getting started in the US, especially in New York. At the conference, however, over 1500 participants from around the world showed how much accumulated knowledge there has been since the Passive House energy-efficiency standard was first articulated twenty years ago. These conferences are really inspiring due to the volume of brainpower and creative energy. This year the conference is in Frankfurt, Germany, just 30 kilometers from the first Passive House project—a development of three townhouses built in 1991—in Kranichstein. If you are interested in energy efficiency and thermal comfort in buildings, I would really recommend that you go.
Half of the 16 sessions are held in English and the rest are in German with simultaneous translation. Case studies of extremely energy-efficient projects from New England to New Zealand will show how commercial, industrial, residential, and institutional buildings of all sizes meet the Passive House standard.
Last June, at the NYPH Symposium, Tomás O’Leary of the Passive House Academy challenged us to build 100,000 m² (or one million square feet) of Passive House projects in the five boroughs within five years. At the conference this year, he will present his challenge along with an overview of current projects in NYC to an international audience.
How three light bulbs help keep my house 72 degrees
By Doug Mcdonald, NYPH Member
It has been cold in January up here in New England. A cold snap moved into the northeastern US, and through it all the interior temperature was maintained at 72 degrees without any active heating – with the notable exception of my tiniest of supplemental heaters, items one doesn’t think typically of as heaters at all. In the past three years I have learned to apply Yankee ingenuity to my Passive House. I’ll try to explain.
Even in a Passive House, one always needs supplemental heat sources for when the weather turns abnormally cold. The weather has turned recently, with the morning temperature averaging about eight degrees.
The first winter living in this super-insulated retrofit house, we weren’t yet done insulating the cellar or installing all the ventilation systems when frigid temperatures came. The house, walls, floors and foundations are an unbroken concrete structure, wrapped in 10″ of insulation, yet planted firmly in the ground. And my building’s concrete core started to slowly shift, getting cooler and cooler. This temperature shift was an annoyance for me because one of the things about a Passive House is that the ﬂoors shouldn’t feel cold – they should be at room temperature.
After this bothersome experience, we made substantial progress in adding cellar insulation, and installing the cellar ventilation. And while the insulation and ventilation were essential in completing the work, given the retrofit nature of the work, I worried. I wanted something simple to counter act any lingering tendency the cold may have to creep into my floors.
Sitting there I also took note of the three light bulbs in the cellar crawl space and I realized that, (1) heat comes from the bulbs, (2) heat rises, and (3) that the bulbs are attached to concrete pillars which are spaced evenly around the areas that get cool. That was an a-ha moment.
So in this past cold snap with temperatures only in the single digits for days, I went down into my basement, contorted myself through the crawl space and journeyed deep into area and turned on all three lights. After a few days of continued cold, I was pleased to realize that not only was the cold held at bay, but the three bulbs seem to have been giving off just enough heat to maintain room temperature floors in that coldest of weather – if perhaps giving off light that no one needs – and feeling very good on my toes.
This would never work in a house that was not built to, or retro-ﬁtted to, the Passive House standards. I’m personally amazed and grateful that three CFL bulbs in a crawl space can actually be a supplemental heat source for this yankee family.
But the question is for my next client, (who is a very very tall skinny rock and roll star) do I use the same Yankee logic? Will they venture into the crawl space to turn on the light bulbs? Let me know your thoughts.
We opened our Mamaroneck Passive House to the public all day Saturday 10 and Sunday 11 November and had an incredible turn out. Close to 200 people diverted from their week- end routine to come and visit our construction site and see the finished skeleton of the house only waiting for siding outside and for blown in cellulose and Sheetrock inside.
Contractors, engineers, realtors, students, manufacturers, the French American School Board and plenty of homeowners and neighbors flocked to the house with the new hope of finding some reasonable solutions to both Sandy’s shake ups on top of a day to day healthier lifestyle.
Most people who have known me since I arrived in the USA in 2005 shared my contagious satisfaction and relief to see that dear project of mine finally get off the ground. A five year gestation is a long time…but the baby was worth every minute and effort!
The Passive House 101 wall sandwich mock ups showing all layers of wall and window insulation that our contractor Dave had put together were a winner because so self explanatory. One wall mock up section will rest forever in our show machine room as a testimony of the house’s DNA for future visitors.
Triple pane Bieber windows were the jewels of the crown: everybody loved manipulating them, feel their strength (500lbs for the double patio door) and highly appreciated their aluminum cladding outside and wood finish inside as well as our favorite European tilt and turn feature.
All admired the beautiful design and amazing lifestyle Andreas managed to create out of our old 1960′s leaking shack’s existing footprint, especially on ground floor living open plan and the 2nd floor master suite with its panoramic view walk out terrace.
Many visitors were much more aware of energy efficient features and of the Passive House movement but too many were still under the impression that Passive Houses are standardized predesigned models, mostly boxy looking. Hummmm…
Most visitors were surprised by the “simplicity” of a Passive House. No heavy mechanicals needed: this is so hard to accept in a country where boilers take up half of our basements!!!
While some would trust us on the no boiler needed and very limited heating and cooling statement, it was obvious there was a need to see the final product with its heart and lungs in full operation early next year. The weather was quite warm but we still measured a 10 to 15 F temperature difference between outside and inside the house, without any mechanical up, despite permanent openings of doors and windows.
Another good news is that many realtors came too. Several had taken their green certification already and it was rewarding to hear their educated questions on insulation systems and them relaying that more and more of their clients look for energy efficient features in a home.
A whole group of students from Rye Neck High School came invited by our blog designer Chelsea who is a Senior there. Great to see teenagers interested in their future and ready to make a difference!
Price of Passive House vs standard construction was an on going question. Dave, our contractor, always made it clear that while the insulating materials used in a PH are more expensive, there is a major trade off due to its very limited mechanical system requirement compared to a standard house. We could say it is between 0 and 10% but my take on that as a homeowner is that you have to design your Passive House so it fits a sustainable lifestyle too. We did make many compromises while designing the house in order to save both money and energy:
Keep existing footprint and split level, allow fixed vs operable windows, create vertical technical columns for bathrooms requiring their fixtures in a designated location, no fancy energy wasteful appliance, low maintenance recyclable siding, asphalt shingles and EPDM with solar panels vs metal roofing, gas stove vs wood burning fireplace, low flow shower heads, etc.
When you think that way, you save. It is a huge research investment for the whole team because you need to think out of the box, question all you knew before and work differently with different materials and suppliers. Unsettling but rewarding…
Between Hurricane Sandy and the cost of energy and taxes going up, every visitor felt there was something for them to learn from Passive House. All were very amazed and grateful to New York Passive House, International Passive House and to our team for the show and tell and the sharing.
Thank you to the team and my friends for helping and spreading the Passive House message hopefully to Albany and Washington soon!